The latest leak-assault on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s position came and went, and we are back in that familiar holding pattern – the NFL takes a blow, Goodell’s job security takes a media pounding, and then we move on to the next crisis.
Which may be just as the owners really want it – only at a lower cost.
And that remains the core problem here. Money.
I know. Who would have guessed?
Goodell has turned a once-popular hire into a lightning rod for disaffection with the NFL. He is blamed for things that are his fault, things that aren’t his fault, and things that would be his fault if you could forget that he works for 32 other people.
But the story that Jerry Jones and like-minded billionaires are still loaded for bear about his contract as well as his conduct comes out on Sundays (normally), when the largest audience is stuck into their football regimen.
And why all this? It isn’t just to save a few million on the commissioner’s office. It’s because the NFL is shrinking culturally, and there’s no spreadsheet for that. Youth football participation is down. Ratings are down (Sunday’s Steelers-Lions game was routed by the World Series). Medical and ethical concerns are rampant. Technology is conspiring with younger viewing tastes to lower interest. The game makes political firestorms every week. Los Angeles is a sinkhole. Even the Las Vegas bookmakers are seeing much more action on college games than pro games.
And someone has to be made to pay for this, so Jones, his ox being gored with the Ezekiel Elliott issue, has turned on Goodell.
But the real problem is the promise made 10 years ago that the NFL would have $25 billion in annual revenues by 2027. It prioritized a furious growing of the business with a neglect of the sport and its practitioners, and made an already arrogant corporation downright soul-free.
In short, the number of people who hate the NFL has grown, but worse, the number of people who could take it or leave it has grown even more. It’s a bit like church – once you stop seeing the value in attending, you decide to sleep in more often, and soon you’re sleeping in all the time.
But in agitating for Goodell’s firing, Jones and his compatriots lose the one thing that separates them from the angry mobs outside the gate. Goodell, misery farm that he is, gives good shield for The Shield, and if he has failed, it is in keeping the owners free from public harm. They wanted the spotlight, they got it, and now they can’t see clearly for all the flop sweat.
So whether Goodell leaves or not really isn’t important any more. The curtain has been moved, Oz is revealed, and a growing number of people don’t like the show. That $25 billion seems like it’s going to be a million miles away, if it happens at all.